Consumer Organizations Urge Public Transparency and Accountability for Acquisition of Fidelis Care; $3.75 Billion in Charitable Health Care Assets at Stake

this is a press release from the following four consumer groups about the proposed sale of Fidelis Health Care to a private company, Centene

Albany, NY – Four leading statewide consumer advocacy groups – Health Care for All New York, Medicaid Matters New York, New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, and Consumers Union – released a joint statement on February 27, expressing concern about the proposed acquisition of the nonprofit Fidelis Care health plan by Centene Corporation, a national for-profit insurance company. Centene has proposed to acquire Fidelis Care’s assets for $3.75 billion, and operate the organization as part of a national for-profit insurance company. Fidelis Care has proposed to convey 100% of the proceeds to a charitable heath care foundation, while New York State is proposing to take up to 90% of the plan’s value as a “public asset” to pay for state health care programs. The advocates call for more specificity from both sides regarding their proposals for what is to be done with the assets, as well as for assurances that quality of care will improve as a result of the transaction.

“There are basically two sides to this transaction,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union. “On the one hand, you have a statewide nonprofit health plan that is essentially being privatized, and will in the future operate as part of a national for-profit insurance company under investor control. On the other hand, there is the issue of what happens to the nonprofit Fidelis Care’s charitable assets, which essentially belong to the community, and are held in trust by the Fidelis Care board of directors. We need full public transparency and accountability for both sides of the transaction, so that the public knows what changes in health care are in store, and also the details of what is happening to the $3.75 billion in the proposed asset sale.” “The proposed Centene acquisition of Fidelis Care is not just a technical corporate change that can be quickly rubber stamped,” said Lara Kassel, Coordinator of Medicaid Matters New York. “The asset sale must not be allowed to adversely affect consumers or health care access in New York State, and Fidelis Care’s assets should be protected for the public’s benefit. We urge a thorough review of this application, with public hearings and independent analysis of the impacts on the Medicaid program and the affordability and accessibility of insurance coverage, to ensure that consumer interests are fully protected.”

“New York has been an outlier in the way that it has approached some nonprofit insurance transactions in the past, with massive conversion assets taken by the state in 2002,” said Mark Scherzer, Legislative Counsel to New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage. “Other states have placed 100% of the value of their insurance plan assets in charitable foundations, to provide for investment in long-term resources to offset the loss of the nonprofit health plan. New York State needs long-term funding streams for our state health care programs that are robust, renewable and reliable.”

“Fidelis Care’s charitable health care assets should remain dedicated to its mission of expanding quality, affordable health insurance in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin of Health Care for All New York. “Consumers would like to see Fidelis and state officials use the assets to: offer coverage to immigrant New Yorkers who are currently ineligible for coverage; develop programs to offer enhanced premium support to shore up the individual market; or other consumer assistance programs designed to help New Yorkers trouble-shoot health coverage and care.”

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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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